CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University

The Link Between IT Strategic Planning and IT Governance

Within my first few months after arriving here at WIU last November, I had the opportunity to engage a couple hundred faculty and staff in conversations about IT. This was a wonderful experience… and a process that is still ongoing. Besides meeting people, it was crucial that I gain an understanding of both the technology needs and the culture of our institution.

As an outcome of these discussions, my colleagues and I began working on two documents that will have significant impact on the IT landscape at Western Illinois University. The first is a proposal that seeks to establish IT Governance. The other is a draft of the 2013-2018 IT Strategic Plan, requested by the Board of Trustees. The IT Strategic Plan and IT governance are inseparably connected, which I’ll explain in a moment.

The new IT Strategic Plan, which will be presented to the Board of Trustees in the fall, has ten recommendations and a number of action items associated with each one. Rather than a litany of tasks and projects, the new plan provides a framework and direction.

The first recommendation of the IT Strategic Plan is to establish IT Governance. Governance engages the entire campus community as a full-fledged partner in IT decision making. Through the governance process, major IT decisions are made in light of all technology needs throughout the University. It cuts across all colleges and business units to eliminate technology silos with the authority to make decisions for IT projects that exceed a certain spending threshold or meet other established criteria. Given limited resources and the current economic landscape, significant technology investments need to be thoroughly vetted against the backdrop of the priorities of all the colleges and university business units.

IT committees, such as the University Technology Advisory Group (UTAG) and the Technology Cabinet, have helped to increase communication and visibility into IT initiatives. These committees, however, were not charged nor structured to implement true governance. As we move forward, we should not be inhibited by structures that are in currently in place.

Throughout the spring semester of 2013 and into this summer, a subcommittee of the University Technology Advisory Group (UTAG), along with others, has been working on an IT governance proposal that includes elements of Maricopa Community College’s implementation (and others) adapted for implementation at Western Illinois University. All segments of the University will be represented in this proposed governance process. Each IT governance committee will publish minutes so that the process of decision-making is transparent.

While the proposal makes recommendations for membership on each of the IT governance committees (called Alliances), senior administration will determine who serves on the Council (the decision making IT governance group to which Alliances submit their proposals). The UTAG subcommittee has proposed three possible scenarios. In addition, the senior administration will designate who the owner of the IT governance process is (the UTAG subcommittee has made two recommendations in this regard).

Once the proposal is approved, the processes and forms for IT governance will be developed and refined during the summer. With assistance from the VPs, the Faculty Senate and Student Government Association, members of the IT governance groups will be identified and recruited. It is anticipated that the first meetings of the IT Governance groups will take place as early as October.

How are the IT Strategic Plan and IT Governance intertwined? In this time of rapid technological change, five years represents a vast span of time! Therefore, the new IT strategic plan will become a rolling plan, revisited and revised by IT Governance on an annual basis to keep it current. The IT Strategic Plan provides a framework and the campus community will be involved in decisions as what to specifically implement within that framework. Our efforts need to focus on those things that are mission critical and differentiators.  The identification of specific solutions for strategies and goals specified in the strategic plan as well as those in the University’s Strategic Plan will be the responsibility of IT governance. University Technology will be responsible for the implementation of those projects that are decided upon through that university-wide IT governance process.

Over time, the IT governance will need to be tweaked and modified, depending upon what works well and what doesn’t. Nevertheless, it represents a step in the right direction and will give the campus a voice in IT matters.

I’ll talk more about IT governance and the IT Strategic Plan in my upcoming blogs. If you have questions or comments about them, please email me at sl-frazier@wiu.edu.

Thanks!

Steve Frazier, CIO

Western Illinois University

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Author: Stephen Frazier, CIO

Stephen Frazier heads up the University Technology department as the CIO at Western Illinois University. He can be reached at sl-frazier@wiu.edu.

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